'Difficult decision:' Milwaukee County Parks pools to remain closed this summer due to COVID-19

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee County Parks pools will remain closed this summer due to the coronavirus, officials announced on Friday, May 22.

With many Milwaukee County Parks venues currently closed as a result of the pandemic, physical distancing recommendations still place, and group sizes still limited, safe pool operations are compromised.

Jen Francis

"This was an incredibly difficult issue decision, because we know what our pools mean to our community," said Jen Francis with Milwaukee County Parks. "The physical distancing recommendations still in place, limits on group gathering sizes, shortage of available lifeguards, and the drastic toll the pandemic has had on the county budget and park staffing levels have all played contributing factors."

A lack of lifeguards in the current climate also presents hiring challenges. Milwaukee County Parks needs more than 300 lifeguards to fully staff its aquatic facilities. Finding that number of lifeguards has become a struggle in recent years, and COVID-19 has made hiring even more difficult.

Cool Waters Aquatic Park in Greenfield Park, Schulz Aquatic Park in Lincoln Park, nine outdoor pools, and the two indoor pools at Pulaski and Noyes will remain closed over the summer. Lifeguards will not be present at Bradford Beach either.

Parks is hopeful that many splash pads and wading pools, which do not require trained lifeguards, will still be able to open to provide relief from summer heat to neighborhoods across the county.

The extended deep-well pool closures include Cool Waters Aquatic Park in Greenfield Park, Schulz Aquatic Center in Lincoln Park, Pelican Cove in Kosciuszko Park, Noyes Indoor Pool, Pulaski Indoor Pool, and outdoor pools at Washington Park, McCarty Park, Jackson Park, Sheridan Park, Holler Park, Hales Corners Park, Wilson Park and Grobschmidt Pool. Hoyt Park Pool, which is operated by the non-profit, Friends of Hoyt Park, is still planning to open this summer.

Cool Waters in West Allis

Impact on Milwaukee County Parks

COVID-19 has taken dramatic tolls on both Parks and county budgets. Milwaukee County continues to provide front line services in response to the pandemic, but increased costs, coupled with $132 million in lost revenue, has led to drastic impacts on the county’s ability to provide needed services.

David Crowley

“Every decision we’re making right now is focused on the safety of our park visitors and our staff,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “It’s essential that our services support public health. Unfortunately, the challenges of both COVID-19 and the county’s fiscal reality have brought us to this difficult decision.”

The County has already seen an estimated $450 million impact on the budget and is calling on State and Federal officials to provide additional resources for the County, so that they may continue to provide the level of service that county residents need and deserve.

In other Milwaukee County Parks news...

Chain and lock used to block anyone from entering the Estabrook Park dog park. Those gates are now open -- but wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing are still recommended. Certain disc golf courses are open again, too.

Jason Schueler

"Being stuck inside and not being able to be outside in the sun, and the birds and relaxing," said Riverwest resident Jason Schueler. "It's built up frustration that I'm able to release on the course, so it's nice."

Just in time for the dog days of summer, many parks are now open again. However, Milwaukee County Parks officials say to use the space at your own risk. The County will not be cleaning or disinfecting the shared spaces; Parks will have 80% less seasonal staff this summer to maintain its properties.

CLICK HERE for more information and to search Milwaukee County Parks